Re: What tone do YOU like?
I want to hear a tone that gets bigger but not brighter up on the A and E strings as the dynamic level increases.
Having some sustain is good, having some overtones is good although neither should be so excessive as to reduce clarity and articulation.
I probably favor a more "modern" type of tone above the classic woody/woofy response that works so perfectly in a bluegrass band context. I view the mandolin more as a lyrical instrument than a rhythmic one, closer to a fiddle than a snare drum so to speak.
For instance, while I adore Mike Compton's timing and touch I'd say in terms of purely pleasing mandolin tone I like Matt Flinner's sound better. Our own Don Steinberg's tone is often a model of clarity and fullness/roundness in spite of the fact he's typically playing in a fairly complex, multiple-voice style.
The first man who whistled
thought he had a wren in his mouth.
He went around all day
with his lips puckered,
afraid to swallow.
--"The First" by Wendell Berry